EDITORIAL: Dam the money flow

The aging Ruskin Dam on the north side of the Fraser could be on the last chapter of its considerable history, if Rich Coleman has his way.

The aging Ruskin Dam on the north side of the Fraser could be on the last chapter of its considerable history, if Rich Coleman has his way.

This week, the province’s energy minister announced that he is exploring options to throttle back BC Hydro’s rate increases, in part by looking at decommissioning two old dams that need major upgrades.

The 80-year-old Ruskin Dam is slated for an almost complete reconstruction to make it earthquake safe.

BC Hydro estimates the project would take six years and cost as much as $850 million, to preserve a dam and upgrade a powerhouse to supply about 33,000 homes.

In fact, it could cost a great deal more than that, since mega-projects of this type often see estimated dollar figures soar skyward.

Coleman said he has sent BC Hydro “back to the drawing board” on Ruskin, after receiving assurances that it is technically possible to lower the level of Hayward Lake over time and decommission the dam.

Citizens who see all things political in a more cynical fashion may suggest this is merely an early election ploy.

Saving nearly a billion dollars on rebuilding an antique dam that may not be needed at all is a catchy campaign feature, to be sure.

Politically motivated or not, this kind of fiscal responsibility has major appeal to heavily burdened taxpayers.

This type of critical thinking is exactly what most constituents want from Victoria.

Don’t spend money needlessly, especially on major projects that can be postponed, restructured or shelved altogether.